Income

The rise in inequality experienced in the United States in the past three-and-a-half decades is not just a story of those in the financial sector in the greater New York City metropolitan area reaping outsized rewards from speculation in financial markets. While many of the highest-income families do live in states such as New York and Connecticut, IRS data make clear that rising inequality and increases in top 1 percent incomes affect every state.

The rise between 1979 and 2007 in top 1 percent incomes relative to the bottom 99 percent represents a sharp reversal of the trend that prevailed in the mid-20th century. This earlier era was characterized by a rising minimum wage, low levels of unemployment after the 1930s, widespread collective bargaining in private industries, and a cultural and political environment in which it was outrageous for executives to receive outsized bonuses while laying off workers. Today, millions of Americans feel tremendous anxiety about their grasp on the American Dream.

Publications

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Capital gains drive record breaking inequality

Capital gains constitute one of the main drivers of income inequality, which stands at record levels in Oregon. The term capital gains refers to income generated from the profitable sale of assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate, a business, or even a work of art. Because such assets are highly concentrated in the hands of the rich, the income produced by the sale of those assets flow to the top.

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Data for the People

All Oregonians deserve to live in dignity — to enjoy economic security and the possibility to thrive. This is doable. Oregon, after all, is a prosperous place, with enough resources for everyone to live well.

But for a vast number of Oregonians today, economic security feels like an impossible dream. At a time when the income of the richest Oregonians has reached record highs, many low-paid Oregonians can’t afford basic necessities such as food, housing, and health care. Economic insecurity afflicts Oregonians of all races. As a result of an economy designed to benefit the white and wealthy, it is especially pronounced among Black, Indigenous and other Oregonians of color.

Data for the People provides the latest publicly-available data on the economic well-being of Oregonians. To better reflect the realities of particular communities, wherever possible we break down data by race and ethnicity using Race, Ethnicity, Language, and Disability (REAL-D) categories developed by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). For more information about this process, as well as data sources used throughout, see our detailed methodology.

The data make clear the need for Oregon to create an economy that is more equitable in its prosperity. OCPP’s Action Plan for the People lays out a policy roadmap to shift the economic system to benefit all Oregonians, not just the wealthy few. We invite you to explore this data set.

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Wealth Inequality in Oregon Is Extreme

How extreme is wealth inequality in Oregon? So extreme that, together, three billionaires residing in the state have about twice the wealth as that of the entire bottom half of Oregonians.

Wealth inequality is vital to understanding the economic insecurity so many Oregonians endure. Wealth refers to the sum of all the assets a person owns, minus all of their debts. Assets can take many forms, including real estate, stocks and other financial instruments, and ownership of businesses. This differs from another measure of economic well-being: income, which refers to how much a person receives in a year. Because wealth is the accumulation of assets and income over years and generations, it represents a more profound measure of a family’s ability to ride the ups and downs of the economy, to generate greater income, to provide educational and economic advantages to children, and to exercise political power through the use of money.

As extreme as income inequality is in Oregon, wealth is concentrated in even fewer hands. This report relies on analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) of data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), Forbes estimates on U.S. billionaire wealth, and ITEP’s own Microsimulation Tax Model.

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Income inequality in Oregon hits new record

Oregon’s ultra-rich took home more money than ever before in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. Newly available tax return data from the Oregon Department of Revenue shows that the gulf between the top 0.1 percent of Oregonians — the richest 1 in every 1,000 Oregonians — and the Oregonian in the middle has never been wider.

Income inequality undermines the well-being of Oregonians at a fundamental level. Research shows that income inequality limits social mobility, hindering the possibility for a child born into poverty to move out of it. It leads to worse physical and mental health outcomes, particularly for those lower on the economic ladder. Moreover, income inequality slows economic growth, innovation, and investment.